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Move Over Columbus, the Real Life Vasco Was a Huge Asshole, Too

Not too long ago, I saw that video of a Starfield glitch that turned VASCO into a murderbot, ED209-style, was making the rounds. It made me wonder what people would think of VASCO if they knew the story of the man Bethesda named it after.

Luckily, the Internet at large has grown aware that the older Christopher Columbus was no good. In fact, there’s a Hollywood director named after him who prefers to go by the shorthand “Chris” (Columbus), instead. How much do you have to suck to have your legacy rejected by a guy that directed two Harry Potter movies? 

Sadly, Bethesda hasn’t seemed to pick up on the simple lesson that all “great explorers” likely sucked just as much ass as Columbus once did. Because Vasco Da Gama, the Portuguese navigator that inspired VASCO’s name in Starfield, is a “great explorer,” as well. 

Long story short, Columbus didn’t arrive at the American continent because he was wiser than his contemporaries. Columbus misread the globe and only ever got to the American continent by accident. If the American continent didn’t exist — as he thought it didn’t — he would’ve died at sea, like the dumbass that he was. Da Gama was, sadly, a much better navigator than Columbus, and managed to achieve what the former should’ve died trying to achieve — discovering and mapping a maritime route to India.

If you ever see someone from Portugal calling out your American ass by saying that slavery was bad, you should agree. Definitely do that, yeah, but then please proceed to ask what country the Americans were buying all those slaves from. Yeah, Da Gama pretty much pioneered the Atlantic slave trade.

So, if you say “but Tiago, EvEryBodY PrAcTicEd SlaVeRy BaCk In tHe DaY! ThOse WeRe JuSt DifFeRenT TiMeS!” the answer is no, they only did it because Da Gama made it mainstream. It’s like saying that hamburgers were everywhere before the invention of McDonald’s — if fast food were also a terrible dredge upon humankind.

My advice for creators is that you don’t just name things after historical figures or groups of great importance that you’ve conducted no research on. I’ll give you that Da Gama was a mysterious figure, yes, but the little documented history of him that exists provides more than enough to conclude he shouldn’t be glorified and immortalized in the form of a likeable, memorable and memeable robot.

Google is right there. Use it and you’ll prevent mistakes similar to this or to BioWare’s when they named Dragon Age 3 after the Inquisition, one of the most infamously vile organizations in history. (On a funnier note, Google would also have prevented the makers of that Russel Crowe exorcist movie for mistaking Dragon Age’s Inquisition symbol for the real Inquisition symbol.)

But I digress. The reason why exploring and colonizing in Starfield rocks is because these planets aren’t already inhabited. The events of Starfield draw no parallel to those of human history, and that’s great. “Exploring” is way less cool when you do it the original way, which is by arriving at an already discovered and inhabited place, and proceeding to pillage, rape, and enslave everyone.

Da Gama wasn’t even simply an innocent explorer or unwitting businessman who accidentally kickstarted something that would later turn out bad. He indulged in his monstrosity. At some point during one of his travels, he came across a Muslim pilgrim ship filled with over four hundred men, women, and children. He locked everyone inside and burned them alive throughout four days except for a few children that he saw fit to forcefully convert into Christianity.

Once again, we don’t know all that much about Da Gama’s life, but we do know about that horrifying incident. Why? The result of an old-timey leak by a disgruntled employee? Nope. We know exactly as much about Da Gama’s life as he wanted us to, and that is one of the few things he wanted us to be aware of. He committed and publicized the mass infanticide to get the message across that the Portuguese empire was not to be messed with. The move paid off. There are no further recorded instances of kids ever messing with Da Gama again, and that’s probably why the Portuguese empire still rules the world with its top of the line ships and military drones.

Now, imagine that while in one of your space travels in Starfield, you come across a pilgrim vessel and VASCO asks you to speak privately. He then goes “hey, why don’t we just blow up this ship with everyone on board except from a few kids that we’ll forcefully convert to House Va’ruun?” We’ll get to watch the ones who don’t immediately die from the explosion slowly suffocate as they drift away in space. It’s gonna be great, like the intro of Mass Effect 2!

Not even Knights of the Old Republic‘s happy-go-murder-y HK-47 would attempt that kind of shit. Starfield’s VASCO likely wouldn’t, either, but good luck removing the fear that you’ll one day come across that scenario knowing what you know now.